Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Guitar Riddle No. 1 by Shawn Persinger

This week’s blog was a fun little experiment: a variation on Bruce Adolphe’s fabulous “Piano Puzzler” as heard on NPR. If you are unfamiliar with “Piano Puzzler” the premise is quite simple. Mr. Adolphe arranges a famous piece of music in the style of an equally famous composer and listeners get to guess the song and composer. Imagine J.S. Bach composing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" or Chopin performing "Can't Buy Me Love". Bruce’s arrangements are fantastic and I highly recommend you download the free podcast that is available on iTunes.

My “Guitar Riddle” works exactly the same way as “Piano Puzzler” except rather than performing in the style of a specific composer I (attempted) to perform in the style of a specific guitarist.

Below is the link to the Sound Cloud MP3 (download it for free or simply listen on Sound Cloud). I’ve also included the sheet music and tab so you can play along with the recording.


You can e-mail your guesses/answers to me at:

I will randomly select a winner and announce the song, guitarist and winner in next week’s blog. The winner will receive copies of my CDs, “The Art of Modern Primitive Guitar”, (my solo fingerstyle recording) and my latest PRESTER JOHN duo recording with mandolinist David Miller, “Rise O’ Fainthearted Girls”.

Click the link below for the Soundcloud MP3. 

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The End.

See you next week. 
For more on Shawn Persinger is Prester John please visit: 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Harmonic Minor Scale (and it's modes) by Shawn Persinger

I'm sorry I have no fully realized text for this right now. Do what you will with the sheet music and hopefully in 24 hours I'll give you some tips...


So it has been more than 24 hours (but less than a week) and I have still not added any information to help you utilize the scales and vamps shown below. I'm sorry but I do believe the reason for the delay is a good one. 


Once I got involved trying to make the theory behind the harmonic minor scale readable, and easy to understand, to beginner and intermediate players I realized it was more difficult than I original had planned. And the more work I did the more great ideas I had and the more fantastic my examples became...and continue to become.

As a result I have decided to let this blog stand as is, which is to say, this blog and the sheet music below is nothing more than:

1. The harmonic minor scale, shown in the key of A Harmonic Minor.

2. Shown in five different positions, with their modal names (the modal names are practically useless by the way and you should avoid letting them scare you or turn you off).

3. A few vamps you can use to solo over.

4. The scale harmonized into chords. 

That's it. That's all you get for now. 

I will continue working on this piece but given the scope of it I can easily see it turning into a magazine article and/or even a possible book.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week with something complete.

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The End.

See you next week. 
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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Most Common Chord Progression in the World? (Part II) by Shawn Persinger

By the author of 

I V iV V  

Note: To download the sheet music simply: 1. Click on the image, 2. Right click the image once it becomes bigger, 3. Click "Save image as..." That's it.

Last week’s blog was immensely popular and I received dozens of e-mails asking for more, specific, information: I wrongly assumed that most people would be familiar with the basic chords I discussed in the article, that was my fault, from now on I shall keep in mind that absolute beginners as well as seasoned players are reading.


Let’s start with the simplest of chords (which by the way if you are a beginner are not all that simple but certainly are essential). The first page of music below shows the I V vi IV progression in the keys of: G, D, C, A, E, F. Normally when teaching music theory most programs start with the key of C because it has no sharps or flats. I begin in the key of G because it is the most common key for guitar players (no pesky F chord to deal with).

As simple as this chart might seem it actually provides a wealth of information and it will get you playing almost every song listed on last week’s chart.


This next page of music shows you the same keys and chord progression but this time using all power chords. In case you don’t know a power chord (which is a colloquial term that has found it’s way into 21st century theoretical use) is technically not a chord! Theoretically you need to have three different notes to make a chord and even if you play a three-note power chord (see example 5) two of those notes are the same note, just in different octaves. So technically a power chord is a dyad. A dyad made of the root (1) and the fifth note (5) of a major (or minor) scale; that is why power chords are also referred to as “5” chords (G5, C5, etc.) All that said power chords are now commonly (if grudgingly by some) accepted as being “real” chords.

When it comes to power chords it is good, and important, to keep in mind that you can play the same power chords in different places on the neck. Examples 3a and 3b demonstrate this. Example 3c also shows that you can play the E5 in a lower octave (you can play other power chords in higher and lower octaves also but this is a less frequent occurrence in popular music).

You might also be asking yourself, “How can a A5 in the key of C be an A minor chord (Ex. 1) if it only has two notes?” Once again, technically, it is not an A minor, it’s an A5. But the sound of A minor is implied by the overall tonality of the chord progression.


Finally, this last chart is the same chord progression(s) using barre chords. In addition to the traditional barre chord shape I have also included the “Hendrix” barre chord (Ex. 4), which uses the thumb to reach over the neck. I have included this shape because it comes up so frequently. Besides Hendrix (who did not invent this but certainly popularized it) you will also find this shape in the playing of John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Keith Richards, Stevie Ray Vaughn and many others. This shape allows you to play the bass note with your thumb while permitting you pinky to remain free to play additional notes on the high strings (think “The Wind Cries Mary” and “Little Wing”). 

I trust these charts will answer most of the questions I received last week about the I V iv VI chord progression but if not you should feel free to e-mail me with any further inquires.

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The End.

See you next week. 
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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Most Common Chord Progression in the World? by Shawn Persinger

By the author of 

The Ubiquitous I V vi IV Chord Progression.    

I am quite aware that this topic has been covered several times in other on-line music blogs and lessons; The Axis of Awesome has gone as far as to write an entire comedy/music bit performing many of the songs listed below (in keeping with their group’s name, it is “awesome”) but I do believe I have room to chime in on the subject.

Some Salient Points

For the most part very few of these songs actually play this progression ad nauseum. As fabulous as The Axis of Awesome’s “4 Chord Song” is they neglect to point out that, for instance, “Don’t Stop Believing” full verse progression is actually:

I            V           vi            VI       then          I            V             iii                IV
E           B           C#m        A                        E            B            G#m            A

Need I point out that’s five chords? And then the chorus is something completely different.

A few fantastic exceptions to this rule are The Police’s “So Lonely” (they do change keys but they keep the chord progression the same), U2’s “With or Without You” and Jack Johnson's “Taylor” though “Taylor” also strays from the progression in the instrumental intro, coda and outro (same as intro).

The Axis of Awesome also play their song in the same key throughout, though the original versions of the songs they sing are actually in different keys. (I’m not knocking The Axis ofAwesome; I think their great. I’m just pointing out the not so obvious).

What do the Roman numerals mean? The major scale is made up of seven different notes. For instance the key of C = C D E F G A B C. Key of G = G A B C D E F# G.

Those are the pitches in those keys but you can turn those single notes into chords by stacking every other note (up to three notes) on top of each other: C = C E G, G = G B D, etc.

The Major Scale Chord pattern is the same for all keys. The pitch names change from key to key but the quality (Major, minor or diminished) of the chord remains the same. Here is the pattern:

I            ii            iii            IV            V         vi            vii
Major   Minor    Minor      Major     Major   Minor        Diminished

Key of C chords = C Major, D minor, E minor, F Major, G Major, Am, B diminished

Key of G chords = G Major, A minor, B minor, C Major, D Major, Em, F# diminished

Below is an incomplete list of I V vi IV songs. I’ve made note of the song title, artist, key and how much of the song actually maintains the progression. There are also a few “minor” versions of this chord progression all that means is the song starts on the minor “vi” chord instead of the “I” for instance “Save Tonight” is:

vi             IV            I             V
Am            F            C            G

Do I need to tell you all you need do now is search Youtube and starting playing along?
(Note: As you can see I stopped listing the keys, etc. after 40 songs...isn't that enough?)

I            V            vi            IV            CHORD PROGRESSIONS

I            V            vi            IV

C           G           Am          F
G           D           Em          C
D           A           Bm          G
A           E           F#m         D
E           B           C#m         A

  1. So Lonely: The Police                              Keys of C & D               Entire Song
  2. With or Without You: U2                         Key of D                        Entire Song
  3. Taylor: Jack Johnson                                Key of C                        Entire Song (Except Intro and Coda)
  4. Soundtrack to My Life: Kid Cudi            Key of C                        Entire Song
  5. Under the Bridge: R.H.C.P.                      Key of E                        Verse
  6. Beast of Burden: The Rolling Stones       Key of E                        Verse
  7. Damn It: Blink 182                                  Key of C                         Verse & Chorus
  8. Hey Soul Sister: Train                              Key of E                        Verse
  9. Down Under: Men at Work                      Key of D                        Chorus (Partial)
  10. Let It Be: The Beatles                               Key of C                        Partial Verse
  11. What’s My Age Again: Blink 182            Key of F#                        Partial Verse & Chorus
  12. As Is: Ani DiFranco                                 Key of Bb                       Verse
  13. Out of Habit: Ani DiFranco                     Key of E                          Partial Verse
  14. Glycerine: Bush                                        Key of F                        Verse
  15. When I Come Around: Green Day           Key of G                        Verse
  16. My Name is Jonas: Weezer                       Key of C ¾                   Partial Verse
  17. No Woman, No Cry: Bob Marley             Key of C                        Verse & Partial Chorus
  18. How Far We’ve Come: Matchbox 20       Key of C                        Entire, Chorus Am
  19. Don’t Stop Believing: Journey                 Key of E                        Partial Verse
  20. Run: Snow Patrol                                      Key of C                        Chorus
  21. Head Over Feet: Alalanis Morissette       Key of C                        Verse
  22. Today: Smashing Pumpkins                     Key of E                        Partial Verse
  23. Jessie’s Girl: Rick Springfield                  Key of D                        Partial Verse
  24. Effortlessly: Sister Hazel                          Key of G                        Verse & Chorus
  25. Move Along: All American Rejects         Key of Eb                        Intro
  26. Save Tonight: Eagle Eye Cherry              Key of Am                        Entire Song
  27. The Passenger: Iggy Pop                          Key of Am                        99% (Has an E in it)
  28. Grenade: Bruno Mars                               Key of Dm                        Chorus
  29. Peace of Mind: Boston                             Key of C#m                        Intro & Outro Melody
  30. I Want You to Want Me                             Key of A                          Chorus
  31. No One Else: Weezer                               Key of E                             Chorus
  32. Heat of the Moment: Asia                        Key of Db                        Twisted version.
  33. One Last Breath: Creed                              Key of D                        Verse
  34. Self Esteem: The Offspring                      Key of Am                         Verse & Chorus 75%
  35. Country Roads: John Denver                   Key of A                           First part of Chorus
  36. Black Label Society: In This River         Key of Ebm                        Verse
  37. Michelle Branch: All You Wanted         Key of Fm                           Chorus
  38. One Republic: Apologize                        Key of C#m                        Entire Song
  39. Avril Lavigne: Complicated                    Key of Dm                        Chorus
  40. Zzzzz: The Cab                                        Key of D                           Entire (except Pre-Chorus)
  41. Beautiful: James Blunt
  42. You and Your Hand: Pink
  43. Poker Face: Lady Gaga
  44. If I Were a Boy: Beyonce
  45. Forever Young: Alphaville
  46. Jason Mraz: I’m Yours
  47. Amazing: Alex Lloyd
  48. Happy Ending: Mika
  49. Can You Feel the Love Tonight: Elton John
  50. Wherever You Will Go: The Calling
  51. She Will Be Loved: Maroon 5
  52. Pictures of You: The Last Goodnight
  53. Fall at Your Feet: Crowded House
  54. Not Pretty Enough: Kasey Chambers
  55. The Horses: Daryl Braithwaite
  56. Sex and Candy: Marcy Playground
  57. Take on Me: A Ha
  58. Africa: Toto
  59. You’re Gonna Go Far Kid: The Offspring
  60. You Found Me: The Fray
  61. Tom: Natalie Imbruglia
  62. Superman: Five for Fighting

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